Sep 18 , 2009
Do you know a high school student who is ready to become the next great film director? Well, if you do, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is waiting at everylittlebitvideo.com with some great prizes too!
 
Visit everylittlebitbvideo.com
The contest is for students attending a high school served by Avista Utilities electric or natural gas or both, in Washington, Idaho or Oregon. Students create a video about energy efficiency (up to two minutes in length) register at everylittlebitvideo.com, and then simply submit the video and that’s it – on their way to stardom and maybe even Hollywood.

Be funny. Be creative. Be informative. Be you. 

Both students and schools are eligible to win in three categories – Grand Prize, Viewer’s Choice Award and Honorable Mention. Winners are eligible to win cool prizes such as technology grants, iPods and flip cameras.

A judging committee comprised of staff from Avista, North by Northwest Productions, Pierpoint Design, 14four and E-Source will review and identify videos for consideration using a point system for messages of energy efficiency, originality of approach and message, creativity, design and style.

With this effort we want to engage our future customers, energy users and generations in the value of energy efficiency. 

So, get the word out to interested friends and help grow our energy saver leaders of tomorrow.

Visit www.everylittlebitvideo.com for more details.
Published: 9/18/2009  1:10 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 14 , 2009
Today, Avista announced that it has requested a significant reduction in natural gas rates in Washington and Idaho. We’ve been buying gas at lower costs since the wholesale natural gas market is down and we’re passing on the savings to customers.

If approved, residential and small commercial Washington customers should expect to see a rate decrease of 20.2 percent, while Idaho residential customers should see a decrease of 17 percent on Nov. 1.

These are the lowest natural gas prices since 2003. If approved, this would be the third time in 2009 that we’ve lowered gas prices. If this is approved, Washington and Idaho rates will have been reduced by about 25 percent since the beginning of the year.

For you numbers folks - if you’re a residential customer in Washington using an average of 70 therms per month you’re looking at a $16.08 savings per month. In Idaho if you use 66 therms on average, you would save $12.74 per month.

If you are on Comfort Level Billing (which I recommend), you will see a reduction in your monthly payment, equal to the dollar amount of the rate decrease for your usage.

What is actually being lowered?
Right now, the price of natural gas makes up 75 percent of your natural gas bill. The remaining 25 percent goes to getting the gas to you – equipment and people needed to provide safe, reliable service. With this request we’re passing along the savings in the cost of gas (in that 75 percent). This type of request is called a Purchase Gas Adjustment (PGA).

So, I’m anticipating this question too – its 80 degrees outside today, why are you lowering rates now? Can’t you do it in the winter when I use natural gas a lot for heating? Good question. Since we are a regulated utility, the utility commissions in each state have to approve any change to the prices you pay – up or down. We’ve requested an effective date of Nov. 1, right before it really starts to get cold. Like I said above, this would be the third reduction this year and although you likely use way less natural gas in the summer months, you’re probably still taking showers or washing clothes or cooking with natural gas – so the savings are good anytime.

Here’s another question you might be asking. I heard on the news that you raised rates - didn’t you? On Sept. 4 we announced that we’ve come to a partial settlement agreement with all parties in our general rate case in Washington. That’s everyone who has a stake in the case. Customers have a number of parties representing them, including the Washington Attorney General’s Public Counsel Office. The agreement (which concerns that 25 percent of your bill mentioned above) settled some major issues, but the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is still the final decision-maker on rate prices. The WUTC has until late December to issue a ruling. I wrote about the Washington rates case here; check out, “Transparency in action - Why did I get an insert with my bill?” 

In Idaho, our general rate case was settled in June with a two percent increase in natural gas (which was offset by a PGA reduction), and a less than two percent increase in electric rates. Read my post, “What Idaho’s electric and natural gas rate settlement means.” This became effective August 1.

I’ll continue to update this blog with additional information about rates and other happenings at Avista. If you have any questions or comments drop us a line in the comments section.
 
 
Published: 9/14/2009  2:20 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 14 , 2009
Today, Avista announced that it has requested a significant reduction in natural gas rates in Washington and Idaho. We’ve been buying gas at lower costs since the wholesale natural gas market is down and we’re passing on the savings to customers.

If approved, residential and small commercial Washington customers should expect to see a rate decrease of 20.2 percent, while Idaho residential customers should see a decrease of 17 percent on Nov. 1.

More to come on the blog in a few minutes.
 
 
Published: 9/14/2009  2:10 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 11 , 2009

Click to enlarge

As much as we dislike having planned power outages, with the number of infrastructure improvement projects we’re working on for customers, some planned outages are necessary. They create a safe working environment for our crews. One such project will impact around 2,700 customers in the Lake Roosevelt area in Stevens and Ferry counties in about a week.

The outage will occur on consecutive Thursdays: Sept. 17, Sept. 24, Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 – and will last from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m.

As we said last week in regards to a planned outage in Coeur d’Alene, it’s time to check the batteries in your alarm clock or figure out how to set the alarm on your cell phone (my favorite choice). If your boss reads this blog, you’ll have no excuse for showing up late to work on Friday morning. And trust me, you can’t know if they read us or not!

Our Colville Operations Manager Marshall Law said in a news release today, “This upgrade will ensure that we’re able to reliably meet the energy needs of our customers in this area for years to come.”

So what does improved reliability mean? In this case new, taller steel poles are replacing existing wood poles along Addy-Gifford Road. So we’re moving the exiting power lines to the new structures. With the added height of the lines, inclement weather and trees are less likely to cause outages. The new structures also mean the lines can carry additional power to meet the growing needs of our customers in Stevens and Ferry counties.

You may receive a flier from us about this outage, see a notice in the paper or even get a phone call. Click here for a map of the outage area.

Areas that will be impacted by the planned outages are:
• Stevens County – Cedonia, Daisy, Fruitland, Gifford, Hunters, Rice, Two River and West End. Also, the Summit Valley area west of the Addy Gifford Road and Swiss Valley Road intersection, including Addy Gifford Road, Addy Cedonia Road, Summit Valley Roads, Swiss Valley Road, Clark Lake Road, Egland Road, Gilson Road, Forsland Road, Grimm Road, Burgess Road, and other side roads in the Summit Valley area.

• Ferry County – Inchelium area from Nine Mile Creek north
Published: 9/11/2009  3:35 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 11 , 2009
Occasionally on this blog, I’ll just keep my mouth shut and let somebody else do the talking. An informative editorial from the Spokesman-Review this morning allows me to do just that.

Check out, “Smart grid offers leap forward on power usage” in today’s S-R. It’s a nice follow to the smart grid posts we’ve had on this blog over the last few weeks, such, “Pullman to get even smarter thanks to the grid” and “The smart grid for 5-year-olds.”

Happy Friday everyone.
 
 
Published: 9/11/2009  8:25 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 10 , 2009
Avista’s two largest hydroelectric dams are located on the Clark Fork River in Idaho and Montana. The Clark Fork Hydroelectric Project consists of Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids dams, and produces about 80 percent of Avista’s hydro power and half of our total power. As of this year, the project has been providing clean, renewable electricity to customers for a half-century. 

This year marks two big milestones for the project – the 50th anniversary of the first power generated at Noxon Rapids Dam, and the 10th anniversary of the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement.

A little history
Avista, then Washington Water Power, began construction of Noxon Rapids Dam in 1956, after completing Cabinet Gorge a few miles downstream in 1953. The construction of Noxon Rapids was a boon to the economy of Sanders County, Montana, and the surrounding area, and Noxon Rapids began generating its first power on July 7, 1959. A dedication ceremony in 1960 drew a crowd of thousands to the tiny community of Noxon, Montana.

The Clark Fork Settlement Agreement, a multi-stakeholder agreement about how to manage and protect the natural resources of the area, was signed in 1999 after several years of collaboration, and resulted in the Clark Fork Project license. This single license to operate both Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids took effect March 1, 2001, in an unprecedented issuance of the license by FERC a year before the existing Cabinet Gorge license expired.

Let’s celebrate
We’ve been marking these milestones throughout the year with a variety of activities, and over the next few weeks the commemoration will ramp up even more. This Saturday, September 12, Avista will host a charity golf tournament in Thompson Falls to benefit Sanders County Community Housing Authority, a non-profit agency that promotes the availability of affordable housing to residents of Sanders County and offers weatherization and home repair programs for low-income, elderly and disabled home owners. We will also hold a re-dedication and community celebration of Noxon Rapids on October 1.

All of our activities emphasize Avista’s commitment to community, environment, and collaboration in our operations on the Clark Fork.
Published: 9/10/2009  3:30 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 09 , 2009
For any of you Washington State University grads or fans out there, the thought that Pullman was not a “smart city” already probably never crossed your mind. Go Cougs! But thanks to a new proposed project that Avista and some regional partners recently announced, the community of Pullman, Wash., is about to get a whole lot smarter – no homework assignments required.
 
Avista has joined with regional partners, led by Battelle, to develop a smart grid demonstration project using matching stimulus monies from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The proposal’s intent is to show how smart grid technology can enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery on a regional and national level.

Avista electric customers in the area will benefit greatly from this proposed project by experiencing greater reliability, shorter outage times and the opportunity to monitor energy in order to use it more efficiently, at less cost.
 
Customers will also be able to see up close and personal what smart grid really means to individuals, not just power companies.

Pullman makes sense as a demonstration project site because it is a bit of an electric island and we can make technological improvements to the entire area over a relatively short period of time – about two years. We plan to apply proven technology that will allow the system to adjust automatically to changes in electric demand and supply, provide automated restoration for local outages, utilize two-way communications between the electric meter and the utility and prepare the electric distribution system for future technologies.
 
This project helps Avista move the region (and nation) closer to establishing a more efficient and effective electricity infrastructure that’s expected to help contain costs, reduce emissions, incorporate more wind power and other types of renewable energy, increase power grid reliability and provide greater flexibility for consumers.

The proposal was submitted to the DOE last month and we expect to hear back in the next few months. As for the dollar amounts, the Pullman project will cost approximately $38 million. Avista will contribute $12.9 million of that cost. The other entities participating in the project include Schweitzer Engineering, Washington State University, Itron, Hewlett Packard, and Spirae.

More resources
For more information about this project, check out the Spokesman-Review article from this morning’s paper, “‘Smart grid’ to get test” or Oregon’s Daily Journal of Commerce article, “Northwest energy test may have national impact.”
 
 
Published: 9/9/2009  10:00 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 04 , 2009
Normally when we talk about biofuels at Avista, we’re referring to our Kettle Falls, Wash., wood waste biomass plant. In just the last month, the distinction has gotten a little trickier thanks to a very cool project to test biodiesel in some of our trucks while greening our fleet.

Since last month, we’ve been testing biodiesel in four different-sized trucks in Spokane. Early reports show that this clean burning alternative fuel may be a long-term solution for us. This is great news for sustainability in our area.

Avista’s biodiesel is made by Inland Empire Oilseeds (IEO) in Odessa, Wash. It’s being stored locally by Whitley Fuel. IEO produces the biodiesel with oil crushed from Washington-grown canola seeds. Founded in 2006 as a joint effort by Avista, Odessa Union Warehouse, Reardan Grain Growers, and Reardan Seed Company, IEO began refining biodiesel last November. With the installation of its crushing line this summer, it became the first biodiesel company in Washington to fully integrate all production steps into one.

Previously in Spokane, one of the issues for companies wanting to try biodiesel was how to get it on a large scale. Whitley Fuel, with Avista and IEO has set up a station in downtown Spokane to serve the growing need.

Sustainability is a huge factor in play here. According to IEO General Manager Stephen Starr, canola biodiesel returns 4.5 times the energy used to grow and manufacture it, making it a highly sustainable fuel.

Earlier this year we placed solar panels on the roof of our Spokane headquarters building and used the electricity to run our Sun Car that you may have seen about town. The biodiesel project and the Sun Car are the initial steps we’re taking to green our fleet for the environment.

Keep reading this blog for more updates on this on-going project.

You can read more details and find contact information on how to get involved on this project here.
Published: 9/4/2009  2:15 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 03 , 2009
Avista will begin lowering the water level at Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River behind Post Falls Dam on Tuesday, September 8 in accordance with its new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license.

Avista manages the lake level to prepare for spring runoff, to mitigate flooding in the winter and to optimize power production. The drawdown will take several months to complete.
Published: 9/3/2009  11:50 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 03 , 2009
For the past few days I’ve been talking to customers on e-mail about our requested natural gas decrease in Oregon. As you might expect, just about everyone I’ve talked to has been appreciative of the decrease request. (Who wouldn’t be happy about paying less, right?)

But a few people have asked a question about why the rate reduction we requested in Oregon, and those we’ve already requested in Washington and Idaho, don’t mirror the current price of natural gas on the wholesale market. It’s a great question and there are several reasons.

The lowest cost on a trading market can never be predicted in advance, so companies hedge their buys to round out the lowest price in an attempt to smooth out the volatility of the wholesale markets. We purchase gas periodically throughout the year with price being a primary consideration. We buy enough gas this way to meet about two-thirds of what our customers will use throughout the winter. The remaining gas is purchased as it is needed to meet your needs. If prices are favorable, we may also purchase gas at a fixed price into the future.

This aspect of natural gas is always a bit tricky to understand, and a lot of that comes from people making comparisons to the price you pay for gasoline or diesel fuel for your car. Unlike those fuels, of which the ups and downs are readily apparent when you fill up your car, we set a price for a longer period of time and then make up the difference (up or down) later with the state commissions. During that time we use pricing strategies to minimize volatility. We’re always working to get you the most fair and reasonable price for your energy dollar.

So while you don’t immediately see reductions to your natural gas prices when the wholesale market costs fall, you’re also protected from the sudden spikes as well. Remember two years ago when the price of gasoline was nearly $5 a gallon? You couldn’t help but buy it if you needed it. Our buying strategies help us avoid buying at high prices, unless it’s really necessary.

It’s also worth noting that 75 percent of your natural gas bill is the cost of the gas itself. We don’t mark up the cost of gas. You pay what we pay. It’s a pass through cost. The remaining 25 percent of your bill covers our cost of providing service through our distribution system.

If you have any additional questions about natural gas, drop us a line in the comment section. There is also a lot of information over on our Conversation page.
 
Published: 9/3/2009  11:40 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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